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Swansea and Elyria have their own unique histories, yet the two neighborhoods share common historical features. In the mid-19th century, Denver was a miners' town, and settlements began to form around it. The Swansea-Elyria area was the site of two of these early settlements. People and industry liked the area because it was close to the South Platte River and its land was flat. Among those attracted by the expanding economic opportunities were Slavic immigrants who settled in Swansea and Elyria in the mid-19th century, when the two neighborhoods were part of Arapahoe County.
The Swansea neighborhood was apparently named by early settlers after the mining seaport town of Swansea in Wales. Swansea was established around 1870, after the Kansas Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads were completed. At that time, a demand for smelter facilities arose. Until then, gold had been extracted from ore at the smelter in Black Hawk, Colorado. To satisfy demand, a company was organized and a large parcel of land in the area now called Swansea was acquired at the junction of the two railroads. Mismanagement closed the Swansea smelter after a few short years, and the facility was abandoned. About 1875, the Village granted H.G.Bonds, Mein Fisher, and Charles Ruler a right-of-way for a steam railroad in Swansea. However, the proposed railroad was never built and the right-of-way grant was repealed by the Swansea Town Council in 1881. Although the annexations of this area to Denver are complicated and involved, most of present-day Swansea was annexed in 1883 and 1902.
Elyria was platted on March 29, 1881, by A. C. Fisk and C. F. Liner, President and Treasurer of the Denver Land and Improvement Company. Elyria was named by Mr. Fisk after his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. Elyria residents voted in favor of incorporation as a village on August 2, 1890. Elyria's focal point was the Town Hall, built in 1894 at the corner of East 47th Street and Brighton Boulevard. Elyria was annexed to Denver in 1902.
There are three structures in Elyria that have been deemed historically significant. The first is the Chapel Building, constructed in 1876 at the corner of East 52nd Avenue and Race Street. It is located in the Riverside Cemetery, which itself was founded in 1870, approximately 10 years before the Village of Elyria was established. The second structure is the Livestock Exchange Building, built in 1916 and located at 4701 Marion Street. This facility followed the establishment of the Denver Union Stockyards, which opened in 191 0. The third structure is the old Elyria Elementary School at 4705 High Street, built in 1924.
Elyria demonstrated a substantial amount of political savvy in addressing the issues of the day. Leaders and residents debated, among other things, the enforcement of gambling ordinances as opposed to the taxing of earnings. In fact, five of the taverns frequented by Denverites were annexed into Elyria boundaries between 1898 and 1900. The Town Hall was also a cultural center, where both nationally-known and local artists performed. Later, in February, 1940, the former Elyria Town Hall was demolished, after it was no longer needed as a fire station.
Aside from its large amount of industrial and commercial development, the greatest influence on the Elyria-Swansea area environment has been Interstate 70, which was built directly through both neighborhoods in the early 1960s, despite the objections of area residents and business owners. They opposed the imposing viaduct because, they said, it was an eyesore that would hurt property values.
This section of I-70 was built as an alternate to the conversion of East 48th Avenue into a six lane, ground level freeway similar to West 6th Avenue. This latter alternative would have required the demolition of several homes to make room for an interchange.
Despite the encroachment of the interstate, the physical character of both Swansea and Elyria has remained basically stable since the end of World War II. Small sections of well-maintained, single-family homes are interspersed with larger areas of commercial and industrial development such as Denver Union Stockyards, Cudahy Meatpacking, Denver Pepsi Cola Bottlers, and numerous other firms.
Source: The City and County of Denver.